Nepali Politics: Terai Issue, View from Nepal Army, Hindu Fundamentalism

Suddenly, it appears, things are now returning to normalcy in Nepal. But everything is not rosy.

Terai Talks:

There are no long queues of vehicles near petrol stations as the supply of fuel has increased in the city. No demonstrations and strikes in south and east Terai since yesterday (Friday 9, Feb). The Wednesday midnight (7 Feb) speech of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has been widely welcomed. The talks committee formed by the government (and headed by Agriculture Minister Mahantha Thakur) has invited agitating breakaway Maoist factions (both groups of JTMM) and another suspicious group called Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum (MJF). So far so good but I see no reason to talk with these people, especially in today’s situation in which the demands raised by recent demonstrations have already been addressed. Even a child can conclude that this Updendra Yadav of MJF is not genuine. He saw how Prachanda became a national leader by launching a movement and went to hobnobbing with the likes of Prime Minister and senior leaders of major political parties. He wants to do the same, a common trait of copycats. In addition to this, Yadav is driven by sinister motives of dividing the country. He is not satisfied by the second speech of the PM but was forced to halt the agitation (for 10 days, he said) because everyone was welcoming it. It should not be surprise if he comes with one weird demand after another. A friend of mine recently joked: “after all of his demands are fulfilled, he will say, ‘now, ensure ceremonial monarchy.'” If we are to abide by the bond of nationality, people like Yadav must be discarded effectively. Now that the government has initiated talks with these factions, it is in the best interest of all to closely watch the developments and support the process.

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The View from Army:

Another positive development comes from within Nepal Army. Army Chief General Rookmangud Katawal yesterday talked about democracy and people with officers. Unexpected and hard be believe but pleasing news at the same time. He instructed military officers to be active in making democratic institutions stronger and more reliable and for fulfilling the people’s desire for lasting peace. Political parties are representatives of Nepali people, said the General and asked officers not to do anything that would hurt faith of representative political parties. General Katawal was addressing the 13th convocation of Command and Staff College cadets at Army Headquarters. Gen Katawal instructed officers to work honestly as per the people’s desires and needs, taking into account the changed circumstances and demand of the time. “Especially in the post-conflict transitional phase, we should give enough consideration to the behavior of the national army and seriousness of expression,” Katawal said. He reminded his officers about “civilian supremacy” and said that Nepal Army works under civil control. “We should be equally committed to make our activities transparent and accountable to the people,” he said. “I also want to remind all of you that the military, as per the principle of civilian control, will be controlled and mobilized by civilian authorities.”

These words from General Katawal are especially relevant and important because they come three days after his subordinate Dilip Shumsher Rana, acting chief at Western Divisional HQ of Nepal Army, spit venom against democracy and democratic leadership. Now the question is how much honesty the words of General Katawal carry? Does he believe that his words are able to control the damage done by Dilip Rana? I think this is a good starting to make the institution of army responsible to civilian authority. It would be appreciated if General Katawal goes further to make sure that army is actually accountable to the people and is under the control of civilian authorities.

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Maoist Vandalism:

Not everything is rosy though. We are heading for the election of constituent assembly and the election commission is preparing voters’ list throughout the country. I just registered my name today in such list. But unfortunately Maoists are playing villain in that process. They seized voters’ list from the government team yesterday in Dolakha’s Kavre VDC. The team had reached there distribution of citizenship certificates. Maoists seized the documents following a dispute regarding enlisting their cadres’ name on the list. According to a report, Maoists forced government team members to enlist their cadres’ names who were from other districts. A few days ago, Maoists did the same in Kathmandu. Maoists must understand that they can’t hijack the electoral process and brings results in their favor just like they used to terrorize people with their guns until recently. This is going to be a democratic election and they must understand there will be ballets, no bullets, in such process. There will be voice, no violence. I think SPA and the government should talk to Prachanda, the Maoist chairman, about these incidents and tell the comrade to put his comrades in control.

Hindu Fundamentalism:

Yesterday Madhav Kumar Nepal spoke something serious while inaugurating district convention of his party CPN UML in Kathmandu. He said that Hindu extremists are trying to create havoc in Kathmandu on the occasion of Shivaratri, a Hindu festival that is celebrated in Pashupatinath this month. Many Indians also come to take part in the annual extravaganza. Hindu fundamentalists are unhappy with the new constitutional provision of secularism in Nepal. “It has been come to our notice that royalist elements are trying to gather unwanted people in the capital at the time of Shivaratri and execute another ‘Hritik Roshan incident’. The government and eight parties must be united to defeat such elements.” [A few years ago, deadly demonstrations were organized to protest alleged remarks on Nepal by Bollywood actor Hritik Roshan. Later it was known that Hritik never made any such statements.] It is an open secret that the palace will do everything to destabilize the democratic government to fulfill its vested interests. It will sabotage every occasions, religious or social, to make it appear that democracy is not helping Nepali people to have peaceful life. They will do their best to foil the plans of Nepali people to hold election of constituent assembly on time. The government, eight parties and civil society must be careful. By Wagle

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